Monday, October 29, 2012

Not Sustainable is Not Success

Building a business like some of those mentioned in this article isn’t success to me. I know some people make money, but ultimately this seems to be almost a fraudulent way of working on an investment. Build excitement for prospects and projects, sell, have founders and employees move on, and the business tank, or potentially fail.

That’s not what I think business should be about and it’s one of those areas that I think has gotten so much press, but doesn‘t really benefit the economy or anyone outside of the investors.

Build something sustainable, something you can be proud of.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to your Customers

I saw this tweet recently:


It’s about this issue with Amazon customer service, which wiped a customer’s kindle (allegedly) and is not communicating with him/her.

I don’t know the whole story, or what went wrong, but that type of communication, even with a good reason, isn’t acceptable. If you have problems with your customers, and they are trying to reasonably work things out, talk to them. Don’t let your employees ignore communications of withhold explanations.

Transparency is good for business.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wasted Time

A nice infrographic from Atlassian. I know it’s aimed at getting you to try their software, but it makes good points, especially about meetings.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lean Startups

I think I mostly agree with this post on why Lean Startups suck.

Listening just to customers, and following their leads doesn't differentiate you. It goes make sense to consider their opinions, but allowing them to drive too much of what you do isn't the answer.

I'm not sure if Lean Startups are the best way to do things, but watching what you do and being careful with your investments is always a good idea.

A higher P/E for more US jobs?

What do you think? I think it's a good post from Mark Cuban, and I try to run my business the way he does.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Schedule Time Off

When you start a business, especially a small one where you are involved, it's easy to work constantly. I've been reminded of that recently with my wife, who started her own business a few months ago. She's realized lately that she's working 7 days a week, and not getting a break. She loves it, but it's wearing on her.

It's important to recharge, or get a break, even if you love what you do. If nothing else, it gives you a chance to think and perhaps come up with new ways to improve your business.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day Out

My employer had me over to visit recently for meetings and during one of the days I was there, we had a "day out" for our department. About 25 of us packed into a bus and drove to a small English town to visit the Gainsborough Museum and a print shop. We spent a half day doing etching and printing the results on paper and a half day in the museum. I have to say that it was rather enjoyable, and it was definitely a bit of a bonding time for me with people that I see once a year (or less).

I have to admit. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, and grumbled a touch. The museum wasn't terribly interesting to me and I didn't want to spend the time there when I could have been coming home a day early, but I did see the value in there. I got to know a few people better, and I think the bonding that occurred in the common experience will help some of us to work a little better in the future.

It reminded me of other events at places I've worked. One 20 person department had a monthly event of some sort for a few hours (lunch, a baseball game, a movie, etc.). Another had a large cookout 3-4 times a year for hundreds of employees.

Perhaps a waste of money, but none of the events was extravagant and all provided employees with the chance to let loose a little and get to know each other. I have to say that the places that did have some out of work bonding were the places I most enjoyed working. It's something I might recommend to small businesses, and something I'd do if I get another business going.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Treating Employees Well

I have had very few employees in my businesses, mostly just partners, so I’m not sure how I’d handle most issues, but I have worked for lots of people and seen relations between an employer and employee handled great, good, fair, and poorly. Unfortunately the latter seems to dominate.

I found this post from Reed Hastings on setting employees free very interesting. The idea that you value work, that you want employees to be happy and excited is a great one. In small companies, I can see this working well, and helping the company to grow and people to bond.

One thing in the post that strikes me as a better deal is the idea of compensating employees fairly now. Don’t do vesting, don’t do delayed compensation. Pay people a fair wage, and give them outright option or stock grants when appropriate, and vest them immediately. Delaying the grants makes it seem like you really don’t want to give them out, and you’re basing the reception on time, not work done. Not the message you want to send if you want motivated people.

I don’t know how well it scales, but it would be nice to see how a larger company could implement some of these ideas, and perhaps build a better culture.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I served as an intern in high school, and I thought it was a good experience. I had the chance to work for two different industries, computer science at a bank, and an assistant to an orthopedic surgeon. In both cases I didn’t really do any work that matters, but I had the chance to see how the businesses worked, and it helped me to decide how I wanted to proceed in my career.

In college I actually had a paid internship, alternating a semester of work with a semester of college, and that was more like a real job.

I think internships are a great way to teach someone a bit about your business, and also to find potential employees down the road. It isn’t a direct investment, and I’d guess that for every 10 interns you had over time, you might find one or two that would make good employees, but it’s a good service to the community and for younger people, and it gives you a chance to see how interesting your work is to others. You might even learn a thing or two from a fresh set of eyes.

However be careful, and don’t treat interns as free labor, to be exploited. Make sure you follow the guidelines from the US DOL.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Service is part of the product

Not everyone runs a business the way Apple does. Plenty of people build products, expect them to fail, but sell them so cheap that they don’t want service to be a part of what they do. Think Dollar Tree and the manufacturers supplying those goods. Service is not part of anything.

However if you are a small business, you can take a lesson here. You can build and grow, and retain customers by making sure you have a way to provide good service.